October 2, 2004


How to Save Social Security (NY Times. 10/02/04)

The answer is not creating private investment accounts within Social Security - President Bush's chosen tack. And Senator John Kerry is not helping things any when he pledges never to cut benefits. Social Security has become such a third-rail political issue that few elected officials have the courage to be realistic about it in an election year. It's too bad, but not surprising, that neither Mr. Bush nor Mr. Kerry is choosing to present workable solutions.

Both men are right, however, in promising to protect current retirees and those who are close to retiring. Credible reform - both fair and adequate - should focus on workers who are still at least a decade away from retirement. It will require a combination of modest benefit cuts and tax increases.

What ails Social Security is well understood: there are increasingly fewer taxpaying workers to support each retiree, and retirees are living longer. But the onset of these destabilizing trends does not mean that Social Security is outdated. On the contrary, the system's adaptability is one of its great strengths.

The great thing about the GOP's wedge issues is they're a two-fer, as the press finds itself with Democrats on the 20-40% side of each issue. And their defense of Social Security will just get more unpopular as the New Deal generation dies off.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 2, 2004 8:14 AM

On the way to work I pass the local SS office, and lined up deep outside are many people waiting to get in. Only thing is none of them are old! They are waiting to get benefits one way or another, mostly from disablity. It is the old welfare program re-incarnated. Now they have to prtend to be disabled rather than out of work. Mental disablities are big business for pschiatric industry. - Perry

Posted by: Perry at October 2, 2004 9:53 AM

Increase taxes and cut benefits? yup, that'll increase support for SS.

On the plus side, at least they are admitting that SS 'contributions' are really a tax.

Posted by: Chris B at October 2, 2004 10:46 AM

If you think the oldsters are a pain in the butt now, just wait until the Boomers start reaching Social Security Age. I'm afraid we're stuck with this problem for a long, long time.

Posted by: Bart at October 2, 2004 11:01 AM

"Third rail", "few politicians have the courage", "adaptability is a great strength".

Sounds like Gail Collins has been spending too much time with John F. Kerry.

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 2, 2004 2:37 PM
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